Thursday, March 10, 2011

Defeating the Most Dangerous Form of Genius

I suppose genius depends upon how you define the word. It's difficult to defeat an intellectual or spiritual genius because good ideas have a way of spreading over time. It is easy to defeat such a person in the short term by denying them resources or killing them, but the genius and his ideas are likely to outlast your empire. Archimedes is the archetype for this type of genius, and he caused the Romans no end of trouble in their attempts to take Syracuse. (Yeshua ben Yosef would be the spiritual equivalent.)

Then, there's military genius. Rome only defeated Hannibal by using its vast resources to limit his army's movements and his options through the efforts and strategy of Fabius Maximus. The Roman elite* didn't like his strategy and advice at first and because of their pride and deafness, several Roman armies (and many of those elites) paid dearly. Eventually, they had a commander who could defeat Hannibal in combat, Scipio Africanus. Hannibal killed or defeated many competent Roman generals and their armies because they were not his equal. In a way, Hannibal selected his own equal in an opponent such as Scipio Africanus. The other examples of such military genius are: Gengis Khan, Stonewall Jackson, and Erwin Rommel. Gengis Khan conquered a vast empire and was essentially undefeated in battle. Stonewall Jackson kept the Southern cause alive, but was accidentally killed by his own men. The Civil War might have lasted longer had Stonewall lived, but the result would not have been different due to the overwhelming resources of the North. The same is true for Rommel. Had Hitler given him the resources he'd have needed, the North African campaign would have lasted longer and perhaps have ended differently. But, Germany was doomed once Hitler took on the USSR and then declared war on the United States. A Rommel or a Hannibal can not win a war of attrition against a better equipped foe, but if such genius has the material wealth and manpower on his side (like Khan), only death can stop him. I wonder if we are selecting for our own Taliban fox in Pakistan at this time. We are certainly killing enough of their leaders. We are likely selecting for those smart enough to survive and thrive amid drone strikes, hunter-killer teams, and other modern methods of hunting and killing human beings. Are we creating our own Hannibal, and what will the human cost be when he is unleashed with enough resources to cause mayhem? Heaven help us if our resolve and determination break before the Taliban's does because an Islamic military genius with a nuclear weapon is very bad indeed.

We don't have the modern American equivalent of a Hannibal. All of our general officers say that they are, but likely the Roman generals thought that they were Hannibal's equal as well until they met him and his army in battle. Bravery and competency are not enough to thwart military genius. Hannibal killed 50,000 Romans in a single day's combat. The modern equivalent of a Hannibal is the total annihilation of an entire corp or more, and many more, if nuclear weapons are used.

* The elites blamed the soldiers for many of the failures and exiled them to Sicily even though the failure lay with the elites themselves. It seems that some things never change. We are seeing common people (homeowners and teachers) being blamed for the failures of elite financial and public institutions. The elites who are really to blame are promoted or allowed to continue their bad policies. It seems that America is the new Rome, and we are rapidly approaching the death of the American republic. The Roman republic could not withstand the rise of two or more powerful oligarchs. America has at least four and they are consolidating and increasing their power.

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Comments:
Hi John

A Taliban Hannibal may well be an American paid Afghan member of Parliament or provincial governor - living a double life.

Interesting about Africanus and Co. General Petraeus seems to gain some popularity because of his Greco-Roman sounding surname.

The defeat of the Nazis just short of Moscow and at Stalingrad was a close run thing. Russia's greatest general was Georgy Zhukov http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhukov :
"Zhukov is widely regarded as one of the greatest generals in military history."

. He was one of the few senior Russian generals not murdered by Stalin.

Pete
 
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